Read This: Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead
Do This: One of the things animals do to protect themselves from cold weather and low food supplies is to hibernate (either temporarily or all season). After reading and discussing the book, explore this winter adaptation by throwing a Hibernation Party. Have each child choose a hibernating animal to research. Animals that hibernate include bears, groundhogs, raccoons, skunks, snakes, and bees.
As party day approaches, tell students they’ll come to the party dressed as their animal. On party day, create “dens” using chairs, desks, and old sheets and let the kids crawl inside; while they “hibernate,” they should draw a picture of their animal sleeping in its den or winter home. Invite students to take turns sharing their drawings and some fun facts about their animals.
Read This: Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration by Marianne Berkes
Do This: Many species of birds and insects fly south for the winter. One of the most visible migrations is that of geese. They fly in a V formation that helps them to conserve energy. Each bird flies a little lower than the one in front of it, reducing wind resistance. The V formation also makes it easier for the birds to keep track of one another and communicate.
Take students out to the playground or into the gym and let them run in a V formation, taking turns being the leader (as geese do). Next, provide them with paper, and demonstrate how to fold a paper airplane. Students can then decorate their planes to resemble geese. After they’ve had a chance to fly them to see aerodynamics in action, display the goose planes in a V formation on a bulletin board.
Read This: Bugs and Bugsicles by Amy S. Hansen
Do This: Like other animals, honeybees store food for winter. The worker bees also generate heat inside the hive by “shaking” their muscles. Take students outside on a cool day to try this experiment. Ask them to stand still for a few minutes and then rate how cold they feel (1 being cold, 10 being hot). Ask them to predict what will happen if they move around, and then tell students to shiver and move around like a bee. After one minute, have them stop and rate how cold they feel. Were their predictions accurate? Return to class and taste a variety of honeys and examine a honeycomb. Explain that the color and taste of honey depends on the flowers the bees visited.
Read This: When It Starts to Snow by Phillis Gershator
Do This: As cold weather approaches and food sources start to diminish, squirrels and other rodents (mice, rats, chipmunks, and beavers) begin stockpiling food. They bury their food or hide it in hollowed-out trees or other safe places.
Gather students in a central area and lay out a collection of acorns. Invite kids to count and describe the acorns, then to put them into a variety of sets—for example, those with or without caps, acorns with darker or lighter coloring. Invite them to come up with their own ways to group the nuts. (According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, acorns should be safe for all children to handle. However, as always, check with parents first.)
Read This: Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows
Do This: Toads and other amphibians bury themselves underground or in shallow beds of mud to protect themselves from the cold. To illustrate how mud can be a good heat insulator, set up an experiment at your science station. Fill two large bowls about two-thirds full with ice water. Next, fill a quart-size plastic bag with fresh mud. Have students put one of their hands inside a smaller plastic bag (or wear a plastic glove) and place that hand inside the bag of mud. Seal the bags at their wrist using tape or a rubber band. (This way, their hands will stay clean and the mud won’t wash off.) Have kids put one hand in each bowl and observe which hand feels warmer.
Read This: Polar Animal Adaptations by Lisa J. Amstutz
Do This: Some animals lay their eggs in winter and must work together to keep themselves and their eggs warm. Emperor penguins are a great example. Winters in Antarctica are especially brutal. The temperature often drops below minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind blows constantly. To keep warm, the males (who guard the eggs) huddle together and take turns being in the middle.
Pick a cold, windy day to demonstrate this survival technique. Take students outside, and have them stand close together in a group. Ask: Who is feeling warm? Who is feeling cold? After a few minutes, have them move around so the kids on the outside of the group are now in the middle.
Read This: The Animals’ Winter Sleep by Lynda Graham-Barber
Do This: Animals do all kinds of things to survive the winter. The three main techniques are hibernation, adaptation, and migration. After studying the ways different animals prepare for or survive winter, play a matching game. Create a deck of cards using blank note cards. On one set of cards, put an animal’s picture and its name. On the second set of cards, write the animal’s survival technique (migrate, hibernate, adapt). Mix up the cards and lay them facedown. Have students take turns drawing two cards at a time to see if they can match an animal with what it does in the winter.